In this tutorial series I will be demonstrating  in depth the complete proccess of making a 3D Marble game using Unity3d Game engine and Maya.
The series will cover:

  •  research and preparation
  • conceptualising the game
  • modelling assets and game maps in Maya
  • texturing models
  • scripting the game in Unity3D – (character controls, camera,  power-ups, pickups, physics, enemies, particle effects and much more).
  • sound and audio
  • animation
  • optimizing for mobile devices
  • optimising workflow
  • problems and difficulties within the process, as well as general things to watch out for.

Getting into 3d Game making can be quite daunting.  With Adobe’s release of Stag3d and the increasing popularity in Unity3d (as well as other emerging 3d engines like Flare3d, alternativa etc). Knowing flash or html is no longer enough to have a competitive edge.  Its disappointing that Adobe hasn’t been able to release a 3d IDE like unity to compliment their new GPU accelerated flash player (fp11).

I will cover my entire process and make notes of the things to watch out for in the Maya to Unity workflow, as well as tips to speed up your process.

Marble game? What is that, why do i want to make a marble game?

Because marble games are great!

Here’s a few great Inspirational works both old and new

marble madness

Marble madness was a Classic game on the NES and possibly other retro systems. It brought a classic addictive gameplay which has been remade many times since.

Hamster Ball

Hamster Ball from TikGames


Ballance, a great title for the PSX released in 2004


never ball

Never Ball, a stand out example


Making your own 

All these games and the dozens other marble games on the market all have good and bad characteristics To make your own, and to give it the best shot any any success, research is the key.

Before I start making my game I’m going to ‘research’  and by that i mean: I’m going to play a shit load of marble games. Marble madness is a great starting point as it demonstrates that even with older styled graphics a game can be super fun to play. Gameplay always wins over graphics, and is the key to the success of any game – especially in the mobile and ‘casual’ categories.


Research and play similar Games

Play similar games which have been successful and take screenshots of interesting game obstacles, situations and anything which could be useful.

List possible game features

Based on your research, make a short list of features you may want to have in your game – with a short description of each. Doing this essential part in the game design process.
Draw little pictures to help represent it if possible.

the list doesn’t have to be final, you may add, remove and make changes as your game evolves.

My list looks something like this (in no particular order)

  • Ramps up/down –  speed up slow down ball
  • Ball Pushing obstacles –  push the player off the map
  • Put the game in the sky to give the feeling of impending doom
  • pits which open and close swallowing the player
  • check points
  • a start location and an end goal
  • fire effects in special areas to make the game look cool
  • teleportation
  • wooden brides
  • slides, like those big water slides at the pools
  • rails, like in a pinball machine or roller coaster.
  • objects to collect
  • some puzzles to solve with you marble to progress (pushing crates or something)
  • Sounds  when player picks up items
  • sounds when player moves over different terrain
  • title screen


Mapping out your terrain

There are a few ways to start this process, which really comes down to preference.  Some people like to draw it out on paper, then scan it into computer, others may like to jump strait into Photoshop and use the drawing tools.
At this point I don’t have a scanner at home so I jumped strait into photoshop, however I did several drafts on paper first. I recommend buying grid paper as it can be amazingly useful for certain games.
grid paper to design games

Grid paper is an effective way to plan out game maps

Here is a link to download the graph paper template I used  Download Graph Paper Template

Below Is the level map I created using simple Photoshop lines and curves. I wont go into the specifics of the Photoshop process, but instead give an overview of how the tools were used.

The map I created

You will notice I have named the different components on the map and given each a short description. In a 3d Game project, we want to easily swap out components or update them individually, so this entire level map will be broken down and managed as components rather then a whole map. Having names for each component will help us both with project organization and creating a quick visual reference as to what assets go where.

Keep in mind this map does not have to be perfect, it is merely a guide. It’s very probable that it will change during the 3D modelling process. Within an agency environment you will likely have to lock down the concept on paper 100% before moving on. I however enjoy playing around in the 3d space and seeing which if my designs are working and which aren’t – is platform 1 too long? how does it get boring? I won’t know until my marble is in the game. Try to get the proportions as close as you can, as proportion is one area which causes a lot of problems within the 3d workflow.

At this point it would be a good idea to start thinking about what kind of obstacles your ball may encounter. Make a new layer in your Photoshop file and create some markers as to possible enemies/obstacles.

In the next section we will be bringing this map into Maya and modelling our level!